Iceland’s iconic quartet band, Sigur Rós, is back with the release of their sixth studio album “Valtari” amidst rumors of an indefinite hiatus and lead singer Jónsi Birgisson’s solo career kicking off.
After the release of their experimental album “Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust” (“With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly”) back in 2008 that was poppier than usual, “Valtari” (“Steamroller”) sees Sigur Rós step back into their comfort zone of ethereal sound with orchestral and choral arrangements.
“Valtari” takes the listener on somewhat of a Sigur Rós musical journey; what entails is majestic beauty in what you hear irrespective of the fact that all the lyrics are sung in Vonleska (Hopelandic), Jónsi’s own lyrical nonsense language.
“Ég anda” (“I breathe”) opens the album with vocal echoes reminiscent of ocean waves slapping against the shore and an organ playing in the background before climaxing with Jónsi’s falsetto vocals. “Ekki Múkk” (“Not a Sound”) follows suit and carries on, with Jónsi accompanied by his trademark bowed-guitar and creating a beautiful sound much opposed to “Not a Sound.”
As the album progresses, the pace does not quicken. The length of the song remains on an average of six minutes, and the lyrics are still incomprehensible. But that is Sigur Rós in a nutshell. They have always given the listener absolute freedom in imagining and deciphering the meanings behind their songs. After listening to the album multiple times, this critic found herself gravitating towards “Dauðalogn” (“Calm Death”). Every new listen uncovers a new element of the song, which has also been played for the third season finale of “The Vampire Diaries.”
Sigur Rós takes a new turn with the last three tracks in that they are all instrumental and long. With the titular track “Valtari” (“Steamroller”) holding the record at eight minutes and 19 seconds, Valtari loses its steam. The journey ends with the soft and ambient “Fjögur píanó” (“Four Pianos”), and with this, Sigur Rós make the task of capturing emotions without lyrics sound so effortless and gracious.
Needless to say, songs from Valtari are more likely to be used in documentaries about saving the Earth than being No. 1 in the album charts. But that should not deter you from being experimental and listening to it.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5